On December 7, Australia became the 25th country to recognize same-sex marriage. The nation’s parliament passed a nearly unanimous bill allowing any two adults to wed. This legislative effort was prompted by an historic mail-in referendum survey vote that demonstrated 61.6% of the participants were in support of legalizing same sex-marriage.
This series of events changes a 2004 law defining marriage as a union only between opposite sexes.
The marriage equality bill cleared the Australian Senate last week. On Thursday, almost all members of the House of Representatives voted the bill into law (with only four no votes).
Elucidating the Australian legal process, it is reported Tony Smith, the House of Representatives speaker, “declared the vote carried,” as less than five Members of Parliament opposed the measure. Embedded video shows the emotional standing ovation erupting from parliamentarians and observers in the gallery. Some attendees began singing “I am, you are, we are Australian,” an unofficial national anthem.
“Australia has done it—every Australian had their say, and they said ‘it’s fair, get on with it,’” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in praise of the legislation. “We’ve voted today for equality, for love, it’s time for more marriages, more commitment, more love, more respect. This is Australia: fair, diverse, loving and filled with respect.”
Australia’s attorney general George Brandis named December 9 as the day same-sex couples can officially begin their rightful legal process to get married, entailing a 28-day notice period, which could have ceremonies happening as soon as January 6, 2018.
Many famous LGBTQ Australians were present in Canberra (Australia’s capital) in anticipation of this important vote, including swimmers Ian Thorpe and Daniel Kowalski, actor Magda Szubanski, and activist Kerryn Phelps.
“We came, we saw and loved finally conquered. Marriage equality is finally the law of the land,” stated Equality Campaign co-chair Alex Greenwich after the vote.
There are thousands of same-sex couples who are already married in other countries (like Kerryn Phelps and her spouse Jackie Stricker-Phelps). Their status will automatically be recognized this month when “the bill gets royal assent from the governor general.” Some couples married over a decade ago, and have children as old as 12.
“When Sarah and I got married…our son was nine months old,” said Jacqui Tomlins, a Rainbow Families spokesperson. “And our daughters, who are 10 and 12, were just a twinkle in their mother’s eye.”
Dean Smith, a senator and first openly gay federal parliamentarian in the Liberal party, is the author of the cross-party bill. Of its passage, he praised it as an example of “a measure of what can be done when people put some of their partisan politics behind,” and that it is “owned by everyone, it is owned by the Australian people.”